A Gift To Us All

My cousin, Paul, has died. That makes four from our baker’s dozen who have left this earth. Paul was a most delightful human being from as far back as I can remember. He was calm and happy and full of laughter. We all loved him because he seemed to be almost perfect and quite humble in his giftedness with words and human interactions. I can’t remember a single time that he got mad at any of us, or for that matter any other person. He was easy going, forgiving, understanding and compassionate in the most honest ways. We all looked up to him and felt proud to be related to him

Paul was a favorite of everyone and that seemed to be true everywhere he went. He loved his time in the Air Force and that love was reciprocated by his fellow soldiers. He was proud of serving the country and he would tell stories of his time given to our nation until his mind made him unable to voice the honor that he felt in doing his duty. He wore his Air Force ring as a sign of his devotion to freedom and democracy. 

Paul loved jokes and stories. He had a knack for delivering a punch line with precision. His tales were fascinating and revealed much about his values and the unmitigated joy that he found in the people that he encountered. That his coworkers loved him as much as we cousins did was not at all surprising. Paul was such a truly good person that it was almost impossible not to feel how truly good and special he was.

Paul was the quintessential husband and father. He loved his wife Carolyn and daughter Jan with all of his heart. He worked hard to care for them and provide them with a good life. The pride that he had for them was apparent on his face. They brought out his beautiful smile whenever he was with them or even thought of them. 

Paul was incredibly loyal to his God and his country and his family. The stories of times that he helped people are legendary. Of course, he never told us about his good deeds because he was never one to boast. We had to hear them from those who had learned from him or been better because of him. He loved deeply and that love was returned by virtually everyone who knew him.

Paul’s mother and father died when he was still rather young. My mama felt compelled to watch over Paul and to pray for him. She did not announce her intentions but she was forever requesting that I accompany her to watch Paul’s daughter perform on the ice or to attend a special occasion. She loved Paul like a son and he in turn was always so good to her.

Until Covid halted my partying I was happy that Paul and his family came to my yearly Christmas Day dinner. Everyone enjoyed having him with us, especially me. I remember how often he rolled up his sleeves to help me wash dishes after the meal. He smiled while he worked as though he had done nothing special at all, but I always appreciated his thoughtfulness.

We lost touch a bit during the pandemic but Paul was quite good about posting jokes on Facebook or telling stories that made us smile through all of the isolation. He loved to walk in the park and when he set goals for himself he met them rain or shine. I was always amazed at how many steps he took in a single day, even it that day was so hot that the rest of us were lingering in our air conditioned homes rather than enduring the heat.

I suppose that I have always had a tendency to block the idea that anyone that I love will actually die. I even thought as a child that one day my father would walk back into our house and reveal that he had not died at all. When I heard that Paul had an advanced case of dementia and that his days were numbered, I spent hours on Google hoping against hope to find out that there was an easy cure for the disease inside his brain. It was hard for me to imagine a world without him and yet when I visited him I saw that he was not the storyteller that he once was and that somehow his mind had been attacked in the most horrific of ways. Still, he managed to smile and weakly laugh during our conversation. 

I held onto that little bit of positivity thinking that at least he might be with us longer than the prognosis from his doctor predicted. I longed to keep him for just a bit more, crying for his family and for all of us cousins who loved him so. A day or so before he died I was storing Christmas decorations away when I came to a nativity set that my mother had given me. Somehow I felt her presence in my mind and it was as though she was helping me to understand that it was time for Paul to get some rest. I understood completely that he was not going to be with us much longer for the very first time. I sobbed uncontrollably as I grieved the loss of such a great man and how it would affect his wife and daughter and all of us. A day or so later I got the call that he had passed. 

Paul was truly a gift to all of us on this earth. He was a beautiful soul who seemed untouched by the darker natures of humanity. If ever there was an angel or saint on earth, it was Paul. We were lucky to know him and now he is resting and enjoying his reward in heaven. I’m happy for him. I have little doubt that he is back to telling stories and jokes and lighting up heaven with his beautiful and impish smile.

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